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Rediff.com  » Sports » EPL: Newcastle surge on as Chelsea hold Arsenal

EPL: Newcastle surge on as Chelsea hold Arsenal

Last updated on: April 21, 2012 23:55 IST

Newcastle United's charge towards Champions League qualification gathered pace on Saturday with a 3-0 home win over Stoke City which moved them into fourth spot in the Premier League as rivals Arsenal and Chelsea could only draw 0-0.

Two goals by Yohan Cabaye and one from Papiss Cisse gave Newcastle a sixth straight victory to put them three points above Tottenham Hotspur and three behind third-placed Arsenal with a game in hand.

Chelsea, who held on for a point at Arsenal despite making eight changes from the side that beat Barcelona in midweek, are now four points behind Newcastle with four games left and struggling to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Tottenham can reclaim fourth spot if they win away at London strugglers Queens Park Rangers later on Saturday (1630 GMT).

Blackburn Rovers gave themselves fresh hope of avoiding relegation with a 2-0 home defeat of Norwich City although they stay in the bottom three while fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers drew 1-1 at home to Swansea City.

Wigan Athletic came down to earth after back-to-back wins against Manchester United and Arsenal by losing 2-1 at Fulham while Aston Villa remain looking over their shoulder after drawing 0-0 at home to Sunderland.

The battle for the Premier League title continues on Sunday when leaders Manchester United host Everton and second-placed Manchester City go to bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers who will be relegated if QPR beat Tottenham.

Sandwiched between the first and second legs of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, the lunchtime London derby at the Emirates proved a listless affair with a draw not much use to either club in the light of Newcastle's impressive run of victories.

In the battle to finish in the top four, Arsenal have 65 points from 35 matches, Newcastle have 62 from 34 while Tottenham have 59 from 33. Chelsea, who will try to defend a 1-0 lead in the Nou Camp on Tuesday, are in sixth spot, with 58 points from 34 games.

Robert Di Matteo's Chelsea, playing their third game in six days, reshuffled their side with Didier Drogba, scorer against Barca, not included because of a knee injury.

They were resolute at the back though with John Terry and Gary Cahill, who repelled everything Barca could throw at them in midweek, again impressive, restricting Arsenal to few chances, the best of which was a Laurent Koscielny header that smacked the crossbar in the opening period.

"It was a brilliant team performance," Di Matteo told Sky Sports. "The organisation, team spirit, effort and commitment was great. It was a magnificent point.

"This was our third game in six days which personally I feel is crazy but we showed there is a great quality in this team."

FRUSTRATING DAY

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he was surprised the game had not been more open as fans at the Emirates witnessed a first goalless draw this season, following his side's 2-1 home defeat by Wigan Athletic in midweek.

"It was a strange game, they decided to lock it up and catch us on the break," Wenger, who watched Theo Walcott limp off with a hamstring injury, said on Sky. "They waited for us in their half of the pitch and we were not sharp enough to open them up."

Robin van Persie had a frustrating day for Arsenal as he failed to add to his league haul of 27 goals.

The Dutchman, one of seven players booked, failed to connect properly from close range early on and fired another shot too close to Petr Cech when well placed.

His best chance arrived after the break when he sliced a right-footed effort wide.

Chelsea had few chances as they elected to play on the break with Daniel Sturridge denied late on by a last-ditch interception by Koscielny as the ball bounced up in the area.

Newcastle took full advantage of the stalemate in London.

Cabaye headed them in front from close range before Cisse, whose goals have fired Newcastle upwards, combined with the Frenchman to make it 2-0. Cabaye curled in Newcastle's third goal after the break.

Source:
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